Even though he played for the Baltimore Orioles when they were a minor league team, Babe Ruth‘s history still matters in the Charm City.
He only played for his home-town Baltimore Orioles in 1914 because the MLB figured out that the kid could play. He’s forever tied to the Red Sox and Yankees for his prowess at the plate. He still holds MLB records in career .690 slugging percentage , 1.164 OPS, and his 206 OPS.
He played in 22 seasons, retiring from the game at age 40. But on this day in baseball history, he went from being a player to being a coach. And, for the unlikely Brooklyn Dodgers.
Ruth was bigger than life. But after he retired from the game, his appearances were less common. But, in 1938, the Dodgers weren’t very good. To add a spark to the team, Ruth was tapped to coach first base.
Even though it never happened, rumor had it that he wanted to manage the Yankees. Unfortunately, they never called. Instead, he got the call from one of his rivals, and he answered.
The Dodgers were losing, and they finished the seasons 7th in the NL at 69-80. That year in the NL, only the Phillies were worse at 45-105. But, instead of sparking the players to be better, Ruth’s presence only drew more fans.
According to researchers at SABR, Ruth attended a Dodgers game on June 15, 1938 and the crowd loved seeing him there. That gave team executive Larry MacPhail the idea to hire Ruth. At the time, Leo Durocher was a player, but he encouraged MacPhail to push the issue. A few days after Ruth’s appearance at the game, the team hired him.
The Dodgers were competing with the New York Giants and the beloved Yankees for fans. Adding Ruth was a sure-fire way to help the team. He did, but his help didn’t last long. Apparently, Ruth and Durocher did not get along. With Durocher’s influence on the team, Ruth didn’t stand a chance remaining in the dugout or on the first-base line.
The Dodgers manager at the time, Burleigh Grimes, was ousted at the end of the season, and Durocher was installed in his place until the end of the 1946 season. He was suspended in 1947 for his issues with Jackie Robinson.
While coaching first base for the Dodgers, Ruth had a few memorable moments. One was that he did not care to share signs from the coaching box; he just didn’t have an interest in relaying them. During a game in August of 1938, he was ejected for arguing with the first-base umpire.
Despite not caring about signs, when he did relay them, he expected his players to follow his instruction. He was the Great Bambino. On one day, Durocher ignored a hit-and-run given by Ruth. This exacerbated their already tense relationship. But, instead of Ruth being angry that the player ignored the sign, Durocher was upset that the sign was given at all. The two ended up fighting, and Ruth ended up with a mark under one of his eyes.
That was the only season that Ruth did any work as a coach. He never became a manager, either. He died ten years later. Baltimore’s beloved son was too fun-loving to be a successful coach. But, it sure didn’t deter him from being one of the best to ever swing a bag.